Education

Dade Medical College CEO accused of covering up criminal history

Ernesto Perez is the politically influential CEO of Dade Medical College — but also, he is a man with a criminal past.

Perez’s apparent failure to acknowledge his old brushes with the law, even in sworn statements to the government, has now led to a new batch of criminal charges.

Miami-Dade prosecutors on Friday charged Perez, 44, with two counts of perjury, a misdemeanor, and one count of providing false information through a sworn statement, which is a third-degree felony.

Perez has yet to turn himself in to authorities. Reached by phone on Friday, Perez said he was traveling outside the country, but that if any forms were filled out incorrectly, the errors were simply an oversight and an “honest mistake.”

“We have a lot of papers that cross our office on a daily basis,” Perez said, declining further comment.

In recent months, prosecutors have also been scrutinizing Perez in an entirely unrelated matter. Perez has close ties with former Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman, who was arrested in August on corruption charges. Bateman’s arrest did not directly involve Perez, but the mayor’s wife served as a real estate agent for a controversial land deal in which Dade Medical College would buy property from the city at a deep discount. That proposed sale is still pending, and Bateman’s ties to Perez are part of an ongoing investigation.

The new criminal charges against Perez , which are unlikely to result in jail time, stem from two separate incidents in which prosecutors allege that Perez falsely denied he had a criminal history — despite a 1990 arrest for second-degree sexual assault of a child. In that case, Perez eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and exposing his genitals to a child. The arrest happened while Perez, then in his early 20s, was playing in a heavy metal band known as the Young Turks. The victim of the crime was a 15-year-old fan.

Perez was sentenced to six months in a Wisconsin jail.

Yet when Perez was appointed to Florida’s Commission on Independent Education — an oversight body that monitors for-profit colleges such as the one Perez runs — the CEO failed to mention his Wisconsin case on his “Senate Confirmation Questionnaire,” according to Friday’s Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrest warrant. The Senate form had to be filled out multiple times, and Perez left out his past in both 2011 and 2012, authorities say.

On those same state forms, prosecutors also allege that Perez failed to disclose a 2002 Miami arrest for aggravated battery. In the 2011 and 2012 questionnaires, police say Perez checked “no” when answering if he had ever been arrested or charged criminally.

The 2009 version of the form is murkier: the arrest warrant says Perez neither checked yes nor no on the arrest question, but he instead “provided details regarding a ‘fight at bar’ with a ‘withhold adjudication.’”

It’s likely that Perez’s comments referred to his more-recent Miami arrest, in which he was not convicted.

In 2012, Perez tried to get that Miami arrest expunged, but prosecutors say he ended up committing another crime in the process. On the “Affidavit in Support to Expunge” form, submitted to Miami’s 11th Judicial Circuit, Perez allegedly failed once again to disclose his sex crime conviction in Wisconsin.

Perez got the case expunged, but that victory was short-lived. Not only did Perez end up being charged with the third-degree felony of providing false information to the courts, but prosecutors last month moved to un-expunge the Miami arrest because of Perez’s omissions.

The request by prosecutors was quickly successful — five days later, Perez’s battery case was no longer expunged.

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